LINGUIST List 13.3275

Wed Dec 11 2002

Review: Dialectology: Goerlach (2002)

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  1. E Winkler, G�rlach (2002), Still More Englishes

Message 1: G�rlach (2002), Still More Englishes

Date: Tue, 10 Dec 2002 15:54:01 +0000
From: E Winkler <>
Subject: G�rlach (2002), Still More Englishes

G�rlach, Manfred. (2002) Still More Englishes.
Amsterdam: Benjamins. hardback ISBN 1 58811 263 2 (US); 90 272 4887 7 (Eur).
xii + 240 pps.

Book Announcement on Linguist: 

Elizabeth Grace Winkler, University of Arizona.

1. A description of the book's purpose and content:

Global Englishes is the fourth book in a series dedicated to the
investigation of lesser-known varieties of English used throughout the
world as well as the development of international varieties of English
used for global communication.

G�rlach begins the text with a discussion of why this topic has
consumed him for twenty-five years and what are the issues that make
its study problematic including, but not limited to, what varieties
can be considered English and the institutional status of those
varieties in the nations in which they are spoken. He takes issue as
well with the many ways of classifying the different varieties of
English pointing out the shortcomings of many of the traditional
approaches. Although it is not explicitly stated, there really are two
thrusts to his research: the study of individual varieties of English
and the study of the globalization of English as the world's lingua

In the opening chapter, G�rlach also discusses the reasons why we
have no really solid statistics on the number of English speakers
worldwide. Not only is it problematic to determine which varieties
are to be considered English, but who to count as an English speaker
in the case of people acquiring English as an additional language. He
fears that the figures of competency for this group are grossly
inflated. Both of these concerns reflect an even more significant
issue: 'There is as yet no objective method for determining a person's
status as a speaker of English' (p. 5). Nevertheless, he does
endeavor to provide some very tentative numbers and details how he
arrives at the statistics he provides.

In the second chapter, ''The problem of authentic language,'' G�rlach
tackles the methodological problems that have plagued, and continue to
plague, the collection of the range of bona fide varieties in a
community including: problems with orthographic representations, the
mixing with English with other codes, and the lack of coverage of
situational and stylistic variation among speakers. He discusses the
problems that ensue from the fact that many descriptions of these
languages are written by nonnative speakers who possess varying
degrees of competence in them and understand not the many subtleties
of the language like contextual variation.

In the following chapter, ''Language and nation: linguistic identity
in the history of English,'' G�rlach begins with a brief discussion
of the many ways in which language has been used to define nationhood
including: the creation of a nation based solely on language borders
(Macedonia), ethnic cleansing based on language (Yugoslavia), the
formation of laws to protect the purity of the national language
(France), and the creation of legislation to make the national
language obligatory (former republics of the Soviet Union). Then he
looks for examples of similar experiences in both the historical
English speaking countries and the English diaspora. He begins with
an historical review of the rise of English, both in England and the
rest of the British Isles; then he shifts to English in the rest of
the world. He divides up this much larger entity into 5 groups based
on how English is used in each area. In the first group, which
includes Scots, which were 'originally dialect communities in which
linguistic elaboration and geographical or political distance have led
to the establishment of separate language' (p. 54). The second group
he calls 'immigrant settler communities' like those of the United
States and New Zealand. A third group is made up of the ex-colonies
in which pidgin and creole languages developed which currently
manifest a continuum of varieties including an acrolect which in many
ways approximates a standard of International English. A fourth group
consists of the colonies of the British Empire in which British
English became the national language and was taught in schools and
used in governmental administration. The final group consists of
countries in which English is commonly taught and used as a foreign
language with the main purpose being use of English for international
commerce and communication. This is a very detailed chapter covering a
wide scope of countries and linguistic situations. The focus is on
the socio-political situations in each country.

Next, G�rlach focuses on Ulster Scots on which much of his own
research efforts have been concentrated. Though his stated intention
is to elaborate issues concerning Ulster Scots, other languages of a
similar type (including Low German, Croatian, and Serbian for
example), are discussed in detail. It is in this discussion that
G�rlach confronts some of the most controversial issues that divide
both linguists and the general public, including trying to determine
what constitutes a language. He takes issue with some of the
traditional criteria for ''language-ness'' and suggests that Stewarts
1968 typology, which includes ''standardisation, autonomy, historicity
and vitality'' (p. 71), may provide a better criteria for separating
languages from dialects. There is a particularly intriguing section
entitled ''Are Low German and Jamaican useful parallels?'' In this
chapter he also deals with revitalization of minority languages,
codification and elaboration of dialects, and the political
implications for language planning.

In Chapter 6, G�rlach centers on whether or not English is a native,
foreign or second language in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong,
Indonesia, and the Philippines countries in which both the political
and linguistic colonial histories are far more complex than other
colonial nations like, for instance, the United States and Canada. He
provides a framework within which these countries may be analyzed and
compared. At the onset of this chapter G�rlach lays out the need for
further linguistic analysis in a number of key areas including
(100-101 scan). He also details many of the factors that will make it
impossible to do these studies well. (101).

Chapter 7 departs from the more generalized theoretical presentation
of the other chapters with a detailed look at a particular linguistic
practice: rhyming slang. This seems odd at first until G�rlach makes
clear the historical nature of the practice and what it uncovers for
us about the modern day varieties in which it is still practiced and
speculations on why it seems to have disappeared from others.

In the eighth chapter, ''English in Europe'' G�rlach outlines the
slow development of English as a lingua franca. He also details the
ways in which English has influenced the development of European
languages in spelling, pronunciation, inflections, the use of gender,
case and number markings, word formation, syntax, and pragmatics. The
most enlightening section here is the one on word formation, in
particular calquing and borrowing from English.

G�rlach moves from theory and historical elaboration to practice in
the final chapter. What does all this mean for the teaching of
English? First, he points out that language teaching books all fail
to provide sufficient information about variation in English, at best
only providing some limited information about differences between
standard varieties from Britain and the United States. Understanding
variation is the first step. Instructors must understand the
differences between the different ways English is used in the 5
different classes of nations as discussed in Chapter 3. Although a
standard variety is probably the goal of most programs, a recognition
of and some instruction in some of the pertinent regional variations
can engender not only a respect of other varieties and their speakers
but a better understanding of these varieties as well. He points out
that students generally have no problem understanding the linguistic
diversity and complexity of their native languages and that it is
important that they understand the same about English. Thus, when they
confront distinct varieties of English, they can recognize that it
operates in the same way. He even provides practical ways for this to
be done in the classroom.

A Critical Evaluation:

Throughout the text, G�rlach provides a wealth of supporting
material, historic, social, and linguistic, from a wide assortment of
English varieties from every continent. In addition, the inclusion of
a fairly extensive annotated bibliography covering many of the book's
main topics is quite useful.

My criticisms of this book are quite limited. For example, although
G�rlach does connect up the chapter on rhyming and slang by
indicating what it can teach us about the spread of English, it is
still an orphan chapter in this book. It would have fit better in a
full section devoted to different types of language use and
performance that would elaborate G�rlach's main points. In addition,
after reading the chapter on the use of English in Europe, I wondered
why G�rlach bothered to include the exceedingly limited sections on
inflection, gender and syntax because the sections do no more than, in
a very incomplete way, describe the patterns found in some European
languages and say nothing about why these topics are significant to
the development of the English spoken there.

Nevertheless, G�rlach's examination of the state of English provides
a useful summary of many of the issues that confront researchers in
dialectology and variationist studies. It is a very useful text for
anyone interested in the history and the development of English beyond
a simple analysis of structural change.


Stewart, William. 1968. ''A sociolinguistic typology for describing
national multilingualism.'' In Joshua Fishman, ed. Readings in the
sociology of language. The Hague: Mouton, 531-45. [71].


Elizabeth Grace Winkler teaches linguistics at the University of
Arizona, Tucson, USA. Her research publications have concentrated on
African substrate influence on Limonese Creole, and codeswitching
between Spanish and Limonese Creole in Costa Rica and Spanish and
English in Mexico. She has also authored a dictionary of Kpelle, a
Mande language of Liberia.
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